Oldschool Heart Art

I figure I'd better make good on a few more of my Sneak Peek promises, so today I'm going to travel back in time and explore a few of the works of a fairly famous yet somewhat underrated artist...

Care of a very thoughtful Christmas gift from my dear Mumsie, M.C. Escher will be inspiring me throughout the year in calendar format, so I've decided to do a tiny bit more research on this talented lad.

Maurits Cornelius Escher (1898 - 1972) was a Dutch artist who is widely known for his "impossible constructions", as explored in beautiful lithographs like Belvedere, below.

[Belvedere, 1958, lithograph]

After struggling with illness and failing to finish high school, he tried his hand at architecture, but eventually pursued the decorative arts at the suggestion of one of his professors. Although his background in architecture is evident, his explorations of mathematical concepts like impossible objects and tesselations are all intuitive. His more famous works like Belvedere, Ascending and Descending, Waterfall and Relativity are still some of the best (and most beautiful) examples of optical illusions.

[Three Worlds, 1955, lithograph]

But there is of course more to the man than tessellations and Penrose Stairs. He explored a variety of subjects and a number of media, from lithographs to woodcuts, engravings and watercolours, and the occasional mezzotint.

[Still Life and Street, 1937, woodcut]

Inspired by his life and travels throughout Italy, his work evolved from direct observation to imagined (and impossible) realities. Still Life and Street, above, harks the beginning of this era.

In 1960, he wrote:

The fact that, from 1938 onwards, I concentrated more on the interpretation of personal ideas was primarily the result of my departure from Italy. In Switzerland, Belgium, and Holland where I successivly established myself, I found the outward appearance of landscapes and architecture to be less striking than those which are particularly to be seen in the southern part of Italy. Thus I felt compelled to withdraw from the more or less direct and true-to-life illustrating of my surroundings.

The outbreak of World War II also affected Escher both geographically and personally. His former teacher, Samuel de Mesquita, was one of many Jews who were kidnapped and killed by Nazis. Escher took it upon himself to salvage Mesquita's works, and following the war he organised a memorial showing of these works at the Stedelijk.

[Symmetry Drawing 88, 1948, ink and watercolour]

Having being exposed to Moorish (Arabic) tiling in the 1920's, Escher's continued fascination eventually emerged in his work. Although his Symmetry Drawing 88, above, is my favourite tessellation (how cute would this be as a wallpaper in a child's bedroom!?), the culmination of this fascination with tiling and illusions is undoubtedly his Metamorphosis series, my favourite being Metamorphosis III, below.

[Metamorphosis III, 1967-68, woodcut]

This image has a particular place in my heart, namely because it kept me entertained through many less than exciting high school physics classes. The detail is just astounding, click on the image and have a closer look if you don't believe me!

[Relativity, 1953, woodcut]

There's only one image that trumps Metamorphosis III in my books, and that is Relativity, above. Why, I hear you ask? I could pretend to have an intelligent answer, or talk about my love affair with the aforementioned Penrose Stairs, but the reality is there are two reasons, and both of them are far from intellectual.

Yep, the first reason is Lego. Andrew Lipson is responsible for this little gem, and it makes me smile every time. But not quite as much as this little clip from Family Guy...

It's embarrassing to admit how much I laughed when I first saw this, and even worse is admitting that now, every time I look at my calendar, I'm going to hear a little voice in my head singing "Going up the sideway stairs!" I think I need to get out more.

Trust me to reduce a great artists life work to Lego and cartoons.

Further reading at here and here.
All images are Copyright The M.C. Escher Company, with the exception of Relativity in Lego, copyright by Andrew Lipson.


Claire said...

That Family Guy shot actually looks like it's a parody of the film Labyrinth (admittedly the bit of the film I'm referring to is soooo incredibly based on Escher it's untrue)!!

Ms Unreliable said...

Oooh I love Labyrinth! I haven't watched it since I was a teensy tiny tot though, it's one of those movies that I'm scared to watch again for fear that it will actually be rubbish and therefore ruin all my happy childhood memories.

Claire said...

Nuh-uh, I own it on DVD (I watched it ALLLLL the time as a child) and it is still damn good! Though I understand why you'd not want to ruin good childhood memories!

And as for heels - definitely recommend practicing, it does get easier, honest! Also, start with a lower heel, or a chunkier one (or both!). Less far to fall, and it's more stable.

Ms Unreliable said...

That's it, David Bowie and I have a date this weekend. What better way to start the weekend?!

As for heels, you're so right, I always go straight for the 5 inch heels and wonder why I can barely stay upright. Baby steps, young Kit!

Vanya @ Endless Inspiration said...

WOW what an extraordinary boat, never seen anything like it!

Ms Unreliable said...

Me either Vanya, it barely looks like it can float from some angles!